The Obama administration has seen three possible candidates it floated for the position of U.S. ambassador to the Holy See sunk due to their views on abortion. Additionally, a source at the Vatican confirmed to CNA that Professor Douglas Kmiec will not become the ambassador due to his stance on life issues.
With the President traveling to Rome in July, when he hopes to meet Pope Benedict XVI, not filling the position would be a major gaffe.
The news that the Vatican has balked at Obama's first three nominees was first reported by the Italian journalist Massimo Franco. According to Franco, a columnist for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, papal advisers told Mr. Obama's aides privately that all three nominees failed to meet the Vatican's most basic qualification on the abortion issue.
"The informal dismissal of the first names whispered in the Obama inner circle is a signal," Mr. Franco told the Washington Times' Embassy Row in email.
The well-connected Mr. Franco also explained that the rejection of the Obama candidates "would suggest that, at least so far, none of the potential Democratic diplomats were considered fit to 'improve relations' with the Holy See."
Neither the Vatican Embassy in Washington nor the White House would comment Monday on the appointment of a new U.S. ambassador, according to the Washington Times.
Mr. Franco, whose new book, "Parallel Empires: The Vatican and the U.S.," explores U.S.-Vatican relations over the past 200 years, said Mr. Obama's predicament underscores a deeper problem the Vatican has with the Democratic Party and its anti-life positions on abortion.
He also noted that the lack of a U.S. ambassador "could become embarrassing" for the White House, if the position remains vacant when Obama goes to Italy for the G8 meeting this July. The White House is trying to arrange a time before or after the summit for Mr. Obama to meet the Pope.
CNA contacted a Vatican official from the Office of the Secretary of State who said that he could not elaborate on the names that have been proposed so far by the Obama administration, but confirmed that the name of Professor Douglas Kmiec “never showed up.”
The official told CNA that “there have only been informal exchanges of opinions, not direct, official proposals,” from the Obama administration.
“Obviously, the exchange has not been fruitful in finding a mutually satisfying candidate, otherwise, at this point, there would have been an announcement, and there isn’t one.”
Asked if pro-abortion Catholic Caroline Kennedy was on the short-list proposed by the administration, the official said he had “no comment.”
“Obviously she would not match the profile,” he said.
An April 2 article in Panorama, an Italian news magazine, journalist Carlo Rossella predicted that Kennedy would be considered for the Vatican position. Rosella explained that after Sen. John Kerry was passed over in favor of Sen. Hillary Clinton for the position of Secretary of State, he asked two favors of President Obama, one of which was to name his former brother-in-law David Thorne as the ambassador to Italy.
Kerry's second request was that Kennedy, herself aspiring to Clinton’s vacated Senate seat in New York, be appointed the administration’s Vatican ambassador.
While some observers of the Vatican-Obama diplomatic debate have said that the Holy See is being too demanding, the Secretary of State official contacted by CNA dismissed the notion.
“The Holy See has always set a very simple standard: the person should not be in opposition to fundamental teachings of the Church that belong to our common shared humanity. He or she may not believe in Catholic dogma if he or she is not a Catholic, but we could not accept someone who is in favor of abortion, or (human) cloning or same-sex unions equated to marriage,” the official said.
“That is a fairly simple principle that governments like, say, Spain and Cuba, or Mr. Clinton’s administration, have been able to understand without a problem.”
The official said that the debate around the chances of Prof. Kmiec to become Vatican Ambassador “is closed.” “He nailed the last nail in the coffin with his latest “disappointing position on embryonic stem cell research."